Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common type of sleep apnea.5 It happens when your upper airways become blocked or partially blocked when you sleep. The blockage is usually in your nose or throat. Common obstructive sleep apnea causes are:
Loud snoring, gasping for breath and daytime tiredness are common warning signs of obstructive sleep apnea, although some people with obstructive sleep apnea don’t snore much at all.
Central sleep apnea is more uncommon.5 It happens when your brain doesn’t tell your body to take a breath. Because central sleep apnea doesn’t cause much in the way of snoring, it often goes unnoticed.
If you have a mixture of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea, then you have mixed sleep apnea.
There are degrees of severity of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe depending on how many apnea events you have per hour. An event is when there is a complete or partial loss of breath for a minimum of 10 seconds. Complete loss of breath is called an apnea. Partial loss of breath is called a hypopnea. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed by taking a home sleep test.
The result of your sleep test gives you a number called an Apnea/Hypopnea Index (known as AHI). Your AHI number gives you (and your doctor) a guide to the best treatment options for you. Learn more about sleep apnea treatment.
In adults the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is obesity. Being overweight can add extra fat around the neck and airways. During sleep the throat and tongue muscles relax causing the airway to become blocked. But obesity is not the only cause - other factors are also associated with sleep apnea. Learn more about what causes sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn’t tell your body to take a breath. It’s normally associated with other conditions such as heart failure or stroke.7
If you have a family member who’s been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you’ll probably be concerned that you might also be at risk, especially if you snore. The risk of you having obstructive sleep apnea is about 50% higher if you have a parent, child or sibling with the condition.8 However, you can reduce your risk of sleep apnea in the future with some lifestyle changes.
Because you’re asleep when it happens, sleep apnea symptoms can go undetected. If you sleep with a partner, you may have been told that you snore, stop breathing or make gasping sounds in your sleep.
Daytime sleep apnea symptoms9,10 include:
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Source: Morgenthaler TI et al. Complex sleep apnea syndrome: is it a unique clinical syndrome? Sleep 2006;29(9):1203-9.
Source: https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea-ahi-numbers accessed 24 June 2019
Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/central-sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352109 accessed 2 July 2019.
Source: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/obstructive-sleep-apnea#inheritance accessed 2 Aug 2019
Source: Palnitkar G, et al. Medicine Today 2012, 13(8):14-23.
Source: Wong SH, Ng BY. Singapore Med J. 2015 Jun;56(6):317-23.
Source: Appleton SL et al. Sleep Health 4 (2018) 13–19
Source: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/women-and-sleep-apnea accessed 2 Aug 2019